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Cali wears the garb of the Colombian opposition center

In large white letters, the names of anti-government protesters killed in recent weeks were posted on the main street in the Colombian city of Cali: Nicolás G, Marcelo A, Jovita O, Yeisson A, Cristian M, Daniel A, Jeisson G.

Most were under 25 years of age. The youngest, Jeisson García, was 13 years old.

Colombia has been hit by a wave of killed last month. What started as a series of protests changes in taxes has become a hotbed of economic reforms in the country. Opponents are outraged by police brutality, inequality, corruption, lack of opportunity and many other issues. Hate to the self-governing government of Iván Duque is possible.

Although deaths have been reported throughout the country, it is amazing how much has happened to Cali and the surrounding areas of Valle del Cauca. Of the 58 people killed in the country, 31 were in Cali and eight in the province, according to Indepaz, a non-governmental organization.

The names of those killed in the protests are posted on the main road in Cali © Gideon Long / FT

In contrast, the Bogotá capital has registered three dead and the second Colombian city, Medellín, with only one.

The government has identified 17 deaths nationwide, about half of them in Cali, a city of 2.3m southwest of the country.

“Cali has been at the peak of dissatisfaction,” said Sebastián Lanz of Temblores, an NGO that oversees violence. “We have seen security forces with weapons attacking civilians who are doing what they are supposed to do.”

The reasons Cali came out as the “capital of denial” in Colombia are contradictory.

Poverty and inequality are rampant, it’s all too high during the epidemic, but government statistics show that the crisis is less severe than anywhere else in Colombia.

Another explanation is that drugs. The Cali cartel of the 1990s was abolished but the city still has more cocaine and weapons, more violent terrorists – than Bogotá or Medellín.

The number of murders in Cali is 48 per 100,000 people, higher than in Bogotá (13) or Medellín (14), which has named their reputation as the capital of Colombia’s genocide.

There is great confusion about who kills. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have claimed responsibility for the deaths. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

The government has condemned the “terrorists”, “gangs” and left the terrorists behind. It cites some of the country’s leading Marxist militias – Farc and ELN – have intervened in the protests.

Cali, Columbia map

Diego Arias, a former left-wing extremist and now an investigator in Cali, says there may be some truth to his allegations. This is why the police in Cali face heavy weapons and respond in the same way.

“The police in Cali feel that they are entering the military, without the supervision of the police,” he said. “And when you fight, you shoot straight at your enemy, not in the air.”

Last week, 22-year-old police officer Juan Sebastián Briñez was killed when he and his friends tried to stop people from robbing a supermarket in the impoverished Cali area of ​​Calipso. “I have never seen anything like it or heard such a mass shooting,” said fellow Marvin Lisalda after recovering from his injuries.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the violence is the appearance of civilian gunmen who have opened fire on protesters. In early May, they attacked a protest march across the city, injuring at least 10 people. The identities of the attackers are still unknown, but locals denounce the gangsters who support drug traffickers.

There are other, more racial and ethnic groups, the size of the exhibits. Cali is one of Colombia’s most black people and some protesters say the city’s police are racist.

Many demonstrations in Cali have remained peaceful during the day © Gideon Long / FT

The southwest is also home to many native and native peoples. On the first day of the demonstrations, freedom fighters in Cali tore up the statue of Sebastían Benalcázar, a Spaniard who led a 16th-century conquest of this part of Colombia.

Social networking sites contain a lot of false information. The gruesome videos show the bodies allegedly washed in the Cauca River, which is said to be the people who were abducted during the protest. Demonstrators say hundreds “are missing”.

Despite all this, many demonstrations are peaceful. At one such event last week, thousands of people gathered in a park that has become a meeting place.

Parents brought young children. Opponents hoisted the Colombian flag. Women activists, freedom fighters, Afro-Colombians, students and traditionalists gathered under the bright sun to listen to speeches and music.

There was joy in the sky. Police were not named, and protesters left peacefully in the evening.

“There have been attempts to boycott the demonstrations and portray us all as spoilers but there are people of all races here,” said María Alejandra Lozada, a 26-year-old nurse who shares her time between protests and treating Covid patients in a state hospital.

But at night, shooting and vandalism begins. In the impoverished suburbs of Siloé and Calipso, gunfire is heard every evening. Tuesday night, burnt destroyed the court in the nearby city of Tuluá.

There has been a dramatic change in violence and vandalism in recent days. On Tuesday, thousands of people dressed in white walked peacefully through Cali, calling for reconciliation and ending bloodshed and barriers.

But there is no indication that the protests will end soon.

“We must not give up,” said Mar Sánchez, one of the organizers of the Cali protest. “We must also work to ensure that the damage caused by the protests manifests itself in the 2022. Elections.

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